Friday, March 1, 2019

Dowell's 23 powers Morton to Title Game

The Lady Potters speak to the media contingent following Friday's semifinal game. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Normal, Ill. - With a 11:15 am game, the gates of Redbird Arena would open at 10:15. Morton Lady Potters (32-3) fans don't call it 'PotterDome East' without reason. Friday's game marked the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Lady Potter program has made the short drive to Normal.

That being said, as one might imagine, there weren't too many people to be found in Morton. 20th-year head coach Bob Becker agrees.

"It looked like a light Saturday morning. It was pretty much a ghost town. People were really jumping on board to support these kids, and they really deserve it."

The video below is a time lapse of the Lady Potter faithful making their way into their allotted section of seats. They filled up the lower bowl within five minutes of the gates being opened. Becker says it's just like back home.

"It feels like a bit of a home-court advantage. It's something pretty special."

If you came to Redbird Arena for points, the first quarter was not for you. Although Nazareth Academy's (31-4) Kaylen Evans hit a trey just 22 seconds into the game, there wasn't a massive amount of points from that point onward in the quarter.

The Lady Potters did respond quickly with a Tenley Dowell layup. However, the Morton offense went cold, at least for a brief while. Nazareth went on a 6-0 run after Dowell's make to take an early 9-2 lead. It wasn't until another Dowell shot with 3:09 in the quarter that the Lady Potters would once again crack the scoring column. That's 3:20 off the clock.

By quarter's end, Tenley Dowell was statistically carrying the Morton offense. In a rare occurrence, the Lady Potters would play eight minutes and score all of four points. It certainly wasn't the start they wanted, and Coach Becker said it came down to a few things.

"A bit tentative, some butterflies, nerves. It took us just a few minutes to just get settled offensively."

After a rough go of it early, the swing of momentum came at the right time. Morton not only got off to a good start in the second quarter, they went on a 13-0 run to be exact, capped by a Raquel Frakes layup. That turned a 11-4 deficit after a quarter into a 16-13 lead in the late-going of the second.

It wouldn't be until a three from Nazareth's Caroline Workman with 2:35 on the clock that the Roadrunners scored in the quarter.

The two sides then went back and forth, with an and-one from Katie Krupa being the only consecutive baskets made by either side following that Workman three.

A layup from Lindsey Dullard gave the Lady Potters a 23-18 lead going into halftime.

It now became a matter of if the Morton momentum would hold up, or if Nazareth Academy turned it into more of a alternating-type game.

It started off well for the Roadrunners, out-scoring Morton 7-3 out of the break.

That's when the Lady Potters began to once again turn it around. This time, it turned out to be for good.

A layup from Tenley Dowell with 1:19 to go in the quarter could prove to be a key moment in the game as a whole, forcing a timeout by Nazareth head coach Eddie Stritzel. At the timeout, Morton would hold a 38-27 lead.

Although Harvard commit Annie Stritzel hit a three not too long after Dowell's layup, Morton would then go on a small 4-0 run on pairs of free throws from Lindsey Dullard and Dowell to have their largest lead of the game to that point, 42-30, with just a quarter remaining.

The Roadrunners would get as close as seven on a Sophia Cullotta layup with 6:57 to go, yet for the most part, the Lady Potters would keep the foot on the throttle the rest of the way.

A Dullard three with 3:39 to go put the Potters up 14, 54-40.

It would then become a game of the free opportunities, with Nazareth Academy having multiple starters in foul trouble, some of whom were dangerously close to fouling out.

Turns out, Morton would go 10-13 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes alone.

Tenley Dowell did foul with just under a minute remaining, followed by two Stritzel free throws to make it a 10-point game, 61-51. In the end, the Roadrunners ran out of time, and the Lady Potters would move on, 65-51.

Perseverance would be a word that could describe the game from the Lady Potters' perspective. Becker agrees.

"Our kids continued to show poise and composure. Never got rattled. You have to play a whole game."

It was a decent game overall for Morton, but what may worry their opponent on Saturday is that Becker says they're not playing their best ball yet.

"There's some growing there, and we can still improve, believe it or not."

In a game like Friday's, it can be hard to pinpoint a particular stat category or two. However, it was the free throw line efforts by Morton, 22 for 28 to be exact, that may cause some eye popping. Coach Becker was pleased with how his team went at the hoop, creating those opportunities to begin with.

"That shows that we did a nice job of attacking the basket offensively. The old cliche of you want to make more than the other team attempts. We've talked about being the attackers, be the aggressors."

Morton will play the Glenbard South Raiders for the 3A State Championship at Redbird Arena, tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 pm. Glenbard South defeated Sacred Heart-Griffin in the other 3A Semifinal, 32-27.

Morton Scoring:
Tenley Dowell (23), Lindsey Dullard (17), Katie Krupa (17), Courtney Jones (4), Peyton Dearing (2), Raquel Frakes (2)

Morton Team Stats:
Field Goals | 20 for 40 (50%)
Threes | 3 for 9 (33.3%)
Free Throws | 22 for 28 (78.6%)
Rebounds | 38
Fouls | 17
Assists | 11
Turnovers | 13
Blocks | 3
Steals | 4

Morton Individual Leaders:
Field Goals | Tenley Dowell (7 for 9)
Threes | Lindsey Dullard (2 for 5)
Free Throws | Tenley Dowell (8 for 9)
Rebounds | Tenley Dowell (8)
Assists | Courtney Jones & Lindsey Dullard (3 each)
Blocks | Katie Krupa (2)
Steals | Jones / Dullard / Krupa / Frakes (1 each)

Next Morton Game:
Saturday, March 2nd
IHSA 3A State Championship
vs. Glenbard South / Sacred Heart-Griffin
Tip-Off Time | 1:00 pm
TV | NBC Sports Chicago
Web | NFHS Network
Audio | Mixlr

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